SpaceX launches Falcon 9 booster until retirement on Intelsat mission – Spaceflight Now

Live coverage of the countdown and the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. A Falcon 9 rocket launched a geostationary communications satellite, the Galaxy 31, from Intelsat. Follow us Twitter.

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SpaceX launched one of its reusable Falcon 9 rocket boosters for the last time Saturday in a rare expendable mission for Intelsat, putting all of the launcher’s propellant toward putting a pair of television broadcast satellites into orbit. Intelsat says it paid SpaceX an additional fee for the expendable mission.

The Falcon 9 rocket took off at 11:06 a.m. EDT (1606 GMT) on Saturday after a four-day delay caused by Hurricane Nicole.

Two Intelsat communications satellites atop a 229-foot (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket are heading into geosynchronous orbit to begin missions expected to last more than 18 years to provide video streaming services over North America. The Galaxy 31 and 32 satellites were built by Maxar, and are part of Intelsat’s program to replace legacy communications satellites in which the FCC is converting a portion of C-band spectrum for use by 5G cellular network services.

Intelsat launched the Galaxy 33 and 34 satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket on October 8, the first of two new C-band satellites that are part of the transition programme. The company has three new C-band broadcast satellites under construction for launching on Falcon 9 and Ariane 5 rockets in the coming months.

On Saturday’s mission, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket took off from Cape Canaveral and headed east over the Atlantic, targeting a “supersynchronous” transfer orbit to deploy the Galaxy 31 and 32 satellites. An elliptical transfer orbit was expected to be between a few hundred miles above Earth to nearly 37,000 miles (60,000 kilometers) in elevation, according to Jean-Luc Frogler, senior vice president of space systems at Intelsat.

A member of the SpaceX launch control team after the mission confirmed that the missile had achieved the expected orbit.

The Galaxy 31 and 32 satellites were stacked one on top of the other for launch. The Galaxy 32 deployed from the top position on the rocket first at T+ plus 33 minutes 31 seconds. Five minutes later, the Galaxy 31 detached from the upper stage of the Falcon 9.

Intelsat has decided to pay SpaceX extra money to get all of the lift capabilities of the Falcon 9, reducing the amount of fuel the Galaxy 31 and 32 satellites need to burn to reach their final operating locations in geostationary orbit. Normally SpaceX retains some of the boost thrust for landing maneuvers, but in this mission, all of the rocket’s fuel was burned during the ascent to space. The reusable first stage booster, called B1051, made its fourteenth and final flight.

The booster was first launched on March 2, 2019, with the first uncrewed test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, in preparation for SpaceX’s subsequent astronaut missions. It was launched back in June 2019 with Canada’s Radarsat Constellation Mission. Later in her career, the booster launched the SiriusXM SXM 7 radio broadcast satellite, and flew 10 missions carrying SpaceX’s Starlink Internet satellites.

Recently, the Falcon 9 Booster was launched on July 17th in the Starlink mission.

The two new Intelsat satellites are based on Maxar’s 1300 series satellite design, the first time two Maxar large communications have been launched on the same rocket in a stack configuration. The twin satellite stack weighs about 14,500 pounds, or 6.6 metric tons, and is fully fueled for launch, according to Froeliger.

The Galaxy satellites 31 and 32 will use their own thrusters to move from the elliptical transfer orbit achieved by the Falcon 9 rocket to a geostationary circular orbit just above the equator, consuming fuel that would otherwise be used to sustain the station throughout their missions.

“SpaceX will not be able to reuse the first stage, so you have to pay a premium for an expendable launch vehicle,” Froeliger said at a press conference Monday to preview the Galaxy 31/32 launch. “The expendable launch vehicle was needed for this mission due to the characteristics of the Maxar satellites. This is the first time that Maxar has launched a stack of two 1,300 groups together. In order to achieve a good orbital life of more than 15 years, we had to go to the consumable Falcon 9 There is a premium to be paid.”

“You pay extra when it’s non-expendable,” Froeliger said in a previous interview with Spaceflight Now. “From a business standpoint, you might also get support that has been moved around a few times until he retires anyway, but you’re still paying because you’re paying for what’s consumed.”

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Platform 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station with Intelsat Galaxy 31 and 32 satellites. Credit: Michael Caine/Spaceflight Now/Coldlife Photography

During the countdown Saturday morning, the Falcon 9 launcher filled with 1 million pounds of kerosene fuel and liquid oxygen in the last 35 minutes before liftoff.

After teams verified that the technical and weather parameters were all “green” for the launch, the nine main Merlin 1D engines in the first stage of the spark booster flashed with the help of an ignition fluid called triethyl aluminum/triethylborane, or TEA-TEB. Once the engines were increased to full throttle, the hydraulic clamps opened to free the Falcon 9 for its climb into space.

The nine main engines produced 1.7 million pounds of thrust for more than two and a half minutes, propelling the Falcon 9, Galaxy 31 and 32 Intelsat satellites into the upper atmosphere. The boost stage then closed and separated from the upper stage of the Falcon 9 to start the uncontrolled fall into the Atlantic.

The booster was not fitted with SpaceX’s proprietary recovery hardware, such as titanium mesh fins or landing legs. And SpaceX has not deployed one of its unmanned ships for the expendable mission.

It was expected that SpaceX would attempt to restore the aerodynamic payload of a Falcon 9 rocket after landing the scalloped halves of the nose cone into the sea from Cape Canaveral. The payload was discharged from the rocket about three and a half minutes into flight, shortly after the Falcon 9’s upper stage engine ignited.

The Falcon 9 rocket fired the upper stage engine twice to inject two Intelsat vehicles into a geostationary elliptical transfer orbit, then the satellites spread out from the rocket one by one. Galaxies 31 and 32 will reveal their solar panels and begin maneuvers with their propulsion systems to spin their orbits into a geostationary orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 km) above the equator.

Intelsat will operate the Galaxy 31 satellite in a slot at 121 degrees West longitude, replacing the Galaxy 23 satellite launched in 2003. The Galaxy 32 will replace the Galaxy 17 satellite, launched in 2007, at 91 degrees West longitude. .

The orbital maneuvers required to put the Galaxy 31 and 32 satellites into geostationary orbit will take about two weeks. After testing in orbit, Froeliger said the Galaxy 31 is set to enter commercial service in January, followed by the Galaxy 32 in February.

“Our customer base is media, so anyone who uses television in the US, you can bet there is a good chance that your channel is on one of these two satellites, or on one of the other Galaxy satellites that we have over the US,” Froeliger said. “These satellites are replacing older fuel-powered satellites, and they’re replacing with slightly newer technology, so they will have higher power allowing the customer to use smaller receiving antennas and better performance, especially in bad weather.”

Galaxy 31 (bottom) and Galaxy 32 (top) satellites are stacked together at Cape Canaveral inside SpaceX’s payload processing facility. credit: Intelsat

Rocket: Falcon 9 (B1051.14)

Payload: Communication satellites Galaxy 31 and 32

launch site: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Station, Florida

Lunch date: 12 November 2022

launch window: 11:06am – 1:06pm EST (1606-1806 GMT)

weather forecast: 90% acceptable weather probability

Recovery from reinforcement: no one


target orbit: geostationary transfer orbit

Launch timeline:

    • T+00:00: take off
    • T+01: 12: maximum air pressure (Max-Q)
    • T+02:43: First stage main engine cut-off (MECO)
    • T+02:46: Separation stage
    • T+02:53: Ignite the engine in the second stage
    • T+03:32: Get rid of the calm
    • T+08:05: Second stage engine cut-off (SECO 1)
    • T + 26: 50: restart the engine in the second stage
    • T+28:00: Second stage engine cut-off (SECO 2)
    • T+33:31: Galaxy Chapter 32
    • T+38:41: Galaxy Chapter 31

Job stats:

  • The 185th Falcon 9 launch since 2010
  • The 194th launch of the Falcon family since 2006
  • 14th launch of Falcon 9 Booster B1051
  • Falcon 9 #158 launched from Florida’s space coast
  • 103 Falcon 9 launched from the 40 . platform
  • 158th release overall from plate 40
  • Flight 126 of the reused Falcon 9 booster
  • SpaceX’s third launch of Intelsat
  • Falcon 9 #51 launched in 2022
  • SpaceX 52 launch in 2022
  • The 49th orbital launch attempt from Cape Canaveral in 2022

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